By Derek Kennedy
It is hard for me to express the magnitude of my delight with the newly released “Queer Eye,” a fantastically modernized Netflix reboot of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” the 2003 makeover show about the Fab Five, a group of queer men who improve the personal lives of men who desperately need it. It is everything I wanted as a queer kid growing up in rural Oregon.
Having queer men portrayed as positive role models in media was entirely nonexistent in popular media in my childhood. Queer people were either shown as one-dimensional caricatures or morally dubious foils. The particular magic of this show is not that the Fab Five are fantastic role models who also happen to be queer men — it is precisely their queerness and masculinity that make them the paragons of excellence that they are. Each of them brings something to the table and has something to teach viewers.
Tan France, the fashion expert, not only excels at redoing wardrobes, but is also a thoughtful and gentle guide for those who are struggling to get in touch with the fact that taking care of one’s aesthetic is a vital aspect of a healthy lifestyle. His words of wisdom have helped me in starting to take a few minutes every morning to look in the mirror and make sure that I am satisfied with the first impression that I will be making throughout the day.
Karamo Brown, the culture expert, excels in instilling confidence and self-reliance. The show does an excellent job of recognizing the fact that nearly everyone has insecurities and hangups, and Brown shines in his ability to help people face these internal issues face-to-face. His work throughout the season instills the lesson that a little bit of confidence and self-honesty can go a long way in helping surmount the difficulties of day-to-day life.
Bobby Berk, the design expert, is the unsung hero of this show. Unlike the other four who get to follow the subject of each episode and make them over in a variety of ways, Berk is stuck at the house and works incredibly hard to makeover an entire living space. While Berk gets a little less screen time than his co-stars, I applaud his demonstration that hard work and expertise can truly make all the difference, and that one should take some level of pride in the space they call theirs.
Jonathan Van Ness, the grooming expert, is a truly delightful human being. Outside of the care and prowess with which he assists men to up their cosmetic game, Van Ness further shows that the femininity of men is something to be embraced and celebrated, and that self-love can be a jubilant and liberatory act. In a world where queer men are often antagonized for seeming too feminine from both outside and within the community, Van Ness stands as a strong reminder that this kind of shaming is both ridiculous and unacceptable.
Antoni Porowski, the food and wine expert, is frankly the most underwhelming of the group, through no real fault of his own. While I am sure that he is just as skilled in his area as the others, his capabilities are not fully demonstrated in the show. Ultimately, he comes off as genial and good-looking guy who knows his way around an avocado, and while there is undoubtedly more to him than that, there is startlingly little evidence. I hope that in future seasons Porowski gets the chance to prove himself as more than mere eye candy, but in the meantime, at least I know a lot more about guacamole.
However, the true marvelousness of the Fab Five happens when they work together. It is a breath of fresh air to see queer men shown acting in concert without drama or cattiness of any kind. It is a display of collaboration that is a heartening example of the power of teamwork and community.
So, it is with eager sincerity that I hope that “Queer Eye” continues for a dozen more seasons at least. These men are on the side of the angels, improving one life at a time, and hopefully inspiring queer boys all over, showing them that they too can be fierce, formidable, important and above all, good.